As a novelist, one of the most crushing things I have to face is a review from a reader who misses the heart of the message my book conveys. The readers aren’t in the wrong, per se—they’re obviously entitled to their opinion! But my heart always sinks when I read a review that makes me feel “missed”—especially when there’s nothing I can do about it. Sometimes readers just misunderstand where I’m coming from and there’s usually not an open forum to sit down and dialogue with them. It may be the one chance they ever give me as an author…and because of a misunderstanding, I’ve lost them as a reader forever.
I can only imagine how much more vastly God feels that pain.
How Is the Bible Misunderstood?
The Bible is a unique, extraordinary book, with one Author (God) but many writers—around 40!—each of whom had a different life experience, many with varying cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. Their unique voices pieced together a puzzle of history, genealogical record, poetry, prose, letters, and more. And the unifying factor in all of this? The voice of God. He was the author giving the words of revelation to the writers, telling them what to say and how to say it.
The difficult thing is that the Bible can’t be read like just a novel you’d pull off the bookstore shelf. The way it’s patterned isn’t actually chronological, and its contents are diverse and specific, rooted in the culture, languages, and events of the time. If one doesn’t approach the Bible with at least a beginning grasp of the many factors that played into its creation, preservation, and God’s intent for it, they can miss the purpose of its existence, the reason for its specific contents, the heart of its Author, and more.
Why Should We Care?
There is a plethora of reasons why understanding the Bible is crucial for everyone, from the new believer to the seasoned scholar. There is not a person alive who doesn’t stand to reap some benefit from knowing, understanding, and applying the principles of the Bible. Here are just a few reasons why understanding the Bible is so crucial:
- It Empowers Us for Right-Living
The Bible offers countless wise missives, instructions, and clear warnings on what to embrace and what to avoid in order to live a blessed, successful life. Understanding these things—why they matter to God, why they should matter to us, and how to structure our lives by them—is absolutely crucial to living both an abundant life and one pleasing to God. Without grasping this, at best we’re subject to the tailwinds of the world’s ever-changing notion of morality, which offers no tangible guarantee of joy, salvation, or righteousness. To live right, and live well, we must derive these things at their very definition from the Bible.
- It Gives us a Framework to Understand the World
Without a firm grasp of what the Bible says about the age we live in, the spiritual forces at work, and who and what we are up against, we can very easily become despondent, confused, and angry as struggles come our way. Thankfully, the Bible very clearly lays out the truth about the spiritual battle raging around us, the enemy in charge of this fallen world, and the role believers can and should play in the fight. To understand the battle and stand our ground in it, we must fully grasp the nuances of the world’s state both spiritually and physically as explained in the Bible.
- It Demystifies Difficult Realities
The spiritual battle is not the only aspect of life that’s difficult to understand—nor is it the only one the Bible explains! The problem of evil, sin, and suffering, why bad things happen to good people, why things seem to get worse rather than better around the world, why man is even here, why God’s Son had to die a horrific death, why there were certain cultures God ordered His people to wipe off the map—these are all very deep, very difficult realities to contend with. Even a surface reading of Scripture may not be enough to fully grasp the intricacies and necessities of these subjects. That’s why we can’t just read the Bible—it’s important to understand it. To have a clear, logical outlook on why so many things have come to pass the way they did and continue to, we must dive in deep and do the hard work to grasp the meaning and reasoning laid out in the Bible.
- It Elucidates the Past, Present, and Future
There are countless details of history, the current atmosphere, and the coming future that can’t be truly explained without a scriptural framework. Some things have happened and are happening that had to fall into place in a certain way due to the Messiah’s coming over 2000 years ago; similarly, some things still must come to pass in order for all of God’s purposes to play out. Understanding these purposes—not to mention what’s happened, why it’s happened, and what still must—helps us to not become embroiled in guesswork and conjecture, but to live our lives with a proper perspective of the days and seasons in God’s hands. To fathom the truth of the past, make the most of our time now, and have hope no matter what comes, we must view all of history through the perspective laid out in the Bible.
- When we Misunderstand the Bible, It’s Easier to Misunderstand the One Who Authored It
Circling back around to where we started, let’s touch again on the heartache that comes from an author misunderstood. When we stay high-level with Scripture, doing a cursory reading without making the diligent effort to dig in and truly understand it, we are building a house of cards on a sandy shore. Anything could come along and blow our beliefs down or rip the floor out from under it. We also run the risk of constructing an improper view of God when we don’t make it a point to truly understand His Word, which can lead to all sorts of pain—from legalism to loose-living, from hyper-judgementalism to hyper-tolerance, from loving Him without the proper respect to hating Him outright. Countless extremes spring from simply misunderstanding the heart of God as He laid it out for us in the Bible. To fully understand the Author, we must understand the blueprint He laid for us: the Bible, His very Word.
The Importance of Understanding the Bible
Does it take effort to understand the Bible? Absolutely! Is it important? Absolutely. In fact, arguably, there is little we could do of more value and benefit with our time here on earth. As we’ve now seen through just a few of countless examples, understanding the Bible is a life-giving, live-changing pursuit that brings everything into the light. And understanding the Bible is important because through that clarity, we see and conduct our lives in the best possible way:
- The way that best honors God and His Son
- The way that best sets us up for successful, righteous living
- The way that best serves others and leads them to do the same.
Truly, can there be anything more important?